Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore

Bitterblue has been queen since she was ten years old, the year Katsa killed King Leck.  Now 18, Bitterblue has begun sneaking out at night to explore her own kingdom.  She realizes that Monsea has not made as much progress recovering from Leck's reign then she'd thought.  There's still many secrets surrounding Leck and what happened during that time, and no one who remembers is willing to tell Bitterblue.  In fact, people who try to talk about Leck are being killed.  Bitterblue must uncover a seemingly never-ending mountain of secrets if she wants her kingdom to ever heal.

Whoa.  You guys.  It was so good.  SO GOOD!  I am kind of blown away.  It all came together so well.  All the different aspects of this fabulous world that has been created.

After I finished reading Bitterblue, I immediately wanted to reread Graceling and Fire.  I hadn't read either book recently enough to pick up on hundreds of little things that might have clued me in to what was going on throughout Bitterblue.  I love it so much when you can tell how much care an author took into creating a world, when everything comes together just right and you can suddenly say, "OMG!  I see what's going on!  That's incredible!"

I loved getting to see characters we've already been introduced to through someone else's eyes.  Graceling was from Katsa's perspective, and now we get to see Katsa and Poe and Giddon and Raffin through Bitterblue's eyes.  I especially enjoyed Bitterblue's reaction to Katsa and Poe seeing each other for the first time in a while.  It involved tackling and wrestling and kissing.  And eye rolling from the spectators.

I really don't want to talk too much about the book, because I don't want to give anything away.  I loved the experience of reading this book and don't want to ruin it for anyone else.  I will say that some pretty upsetting and traumatizing things are revealed over the course of the book.  Leck's reign was even more horrifying then you'd ever imagined.  It's no wonder the kingdom hasn't really recovered.

An aspect I respect very much about Kristin Cashore's books is how she creates romantic relationships.  I know that a lot of people clutched their purls and got their undergarments in a twist when Poe and Katsa didn't get married, or when Fire chose not to have children, even though she really wanted children.  For a lot of people, a happy ending equals a man and women getting married and having children and if that doesn't happen something is wrong.  I love that Kristin Cashore doesn't feel like she needs to follow that.  I love that she creates realistic, passionate, loving relationships that don't have traditional endings.  I love that she was able to show that Katsa loved Poe, but that that wasn't enough for to be willing to give up her own freedom.  No, it's not because she hates men (duh, she clearly loves Poe) but Poe's love isn't enough for her.  She wants to have a life as well.  How awesome is that?  So awesome.

I also appreciate how Kristin Cashore's female characters are complex human beings.  So often a woman gets to be one of two things: kickass bitch who will accept the love of no man (and if she does she isn't kickass any more), or a quiet good-girl domestic type.  There's this idea that if a women is going to be powerful, she cannot have any emotions.  She has to rid herself of any traditional "womanly" attributes and essentially act like a man.  Only through acting like a man (having little emotion) can she be truly powerful.  But a woman can still be a woman and be strong.  Bitterblue is the queen of a kingdom, leading her people toward a better future.  But that doesn't stop her from being scared, or falling in love, or feeling overwhelmed and confused, or needing other people to help her, or crying.  She is all those things.  She is a strong, powerful woman, who also sometimes needs help and support.  And sometimes things suck and she needs to cry.  But none of that stops her from doing her job, and doing it well and pushing through the crap that keeps getting handed to her.  Sometimes she wants to give up.  But she doesn't.  I never felt that Bitterblue was weak, or needed a man to come in a fix things for her, not even when she was crying on the floor.

Do you realize how few books there are that does that?  Like, really do that?  And Kristin Cashore has done it in all three of her books so well.

So in conclusion.  Dear Kristin Cashore, I love you.  Please write more books that take place in this world?  I would love to know more about Hava.  I felt like that might have been left deliberately open, so maybe someday there will be more to come?  I can only hope.

Bitterblue comes out May 1, 2012.  Read it.


  1. I agree with you completely. It was such a wonderful book and Bitterblue's characterization is one of the best I've read in a YA novel for a long time.
    My favourite subplot was DEFINITELY Hava. I really want more of her, of them. I did not care that much about Bitterblue's love interest, but Hava is another matter entirely. There has to be more about that, please.

  2. I Love this book. I Love the entire series. Would recommend it to anyone. I hope she adds to the series.

    1. I would love something more about Hava.


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